Tag Archive for 'power of attorney'

“The odyssey of nonsense!”

One small obstacle among many to reunite with your family

Office hours of KEP office in Victoria Square

Today the day begins with a simple task – or so it seems. Habib* from Afghanistan is an asylum seeker in Greece and a lone parent to one six-year-old boy. His wife resides legally in Germany and she is sick with breast cancer. Habib needs to sign a power of attorney in order to be represented by a lawyer in Athens, who will fight for his and his children’s right to be reunited with his wife. 

According to recent changes in law, his signature must be verified and stamped by a municipality office (KEP) or at a police station to be accepted by the competent Asylum Service. Due to general restrictions in place because of Covid-19, the municipality office currently only see people face-to-face by appointment and only in urgent cases.

Powers of attorney declarations should be signed and verified online, however to access online services you must have either a tax number (AFM) and the online codes for Greece’s taxis.net platform or a bank account and access to online banking. Habib, like most people seeking protection in Greece, has none of these things since there are multiple administrative hurdles in order to get them. 

We call the KEP office in Victoria Square to make an appointment. They offer their next appointment which is in three weeks time. However, we are not sure if they will accept to conduct this bureaucratic task. In another similar case, the refugee went to an appointment at a KEP and was tuend away.

Habib and his family must act fast, so we head to the police station nearest to his address in Aghios Panteleimonas. It is shortly before 14 o clock, 26th May 2020. The police officers at the entrance are sitting on two chairs. The area around the entrance is blocked with security strings. They say that the police have received orders not to verify signatures anymore. Only half an hour earlier, in another police station in Athens not far away, another friend had signed his power of attorney in front of a police officer – the simple task was completed in just a few minutes. But in Aghios Panteleimonas the officers insist we must go away. 

We walk to the next police station in Kypseli. Now it is 14:30. A dozen citizens stand in front of the police station. “No verification of signatures today”, the officer says. “We have more important things to do now.” I try to insist and explain the fact that we have already been sent away once today by officers in a different station. The guard continues: “You can use the online platform at open.gov“. We reply that Habib has no tax number and no bank account. The officer looks surprised and says: “Then he can not be legally in Greece”. I don’t know if this is a Greek tragedy or what. Next to us a fellow citizen says that he needs to verify his signature to buy a motorbike today. He says, he tried many times to complete the task using the online platform but the system kept breaking down. He says, he has already lost his taxi business thanks to the economic crisis and he has a small baby now. He needs this motorbike to get a job as soon as possible. The officer answers that even his elderly father has enough IQ to use the internet platform. 

We continue to the police station in Exarchia. It is approx. 15:20. “Come back in two hours!” we are told. But nobody is standing in front of the police station. There is no queues. The situation is calm. We politely ask if it might be possible to verify our signature now, but are met with nothing but angry looks. 

At 15:54 we are at the police station in Omonia. The guard says that only residents of Omonia area can verify their signatures here. He is polite enough to ask the responsible officer if he can help us. But his superior’s line is the following: “You have to do the signature in the police station of your neighbourhood”. We inform him that Aghios Panteleimonas rejected to undertake such duties in general. He does not believe what we tell him. People being arrested pass us by and an hour later, an officer comes down at around 17:02. He tells us we should go to the police station of residence. No exceptions. 

At 17:30 we are at the police station where the day had begun successfully, with a friend having his signature verified for a power of attorney easily. The shift has changed and we are met by different staff. We are rejected here too. Go to your own neighbourhood or perform the signature online, they tell us. We are tired of explaining why this is not feasible and return back to our homes with empty hands. 

Thank you Greek government for the most impractical and repressive law reform!
Thank you police officers for refusing to complete a simple duty arbitrarily!

P.S. This is how a seemingly simple thing such as authorising a lawyer can become a huge obstacle to accessing your rights.

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